Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mah Goalposts

where should I put em?

The Power of the Gun:

A lot of commenters seem sure that having a legal gun around substantially increases the likelihood that someone will, in a moment of rage, shoot someone--so sure that they are clearly convinced I am a lunatic for even suggesting otherwise. I understand the intuition, and maybe it's right. But the evidence for the proposition is not all that strong.
Here's a little take home experiment for Megan the social scientist; try shooting someone without a gun.
First of all, as it shows in the articles I linked earlier, something like 90% of homicides are committed by people with criminal records, i.e. people who probably cannot legally own a gun. A lot of the rest are committed by juveniles, or mentally unstable people, who also cannot legally own a gun.
This is highly relevant to concerns that right wing extremists bringing LOADED FIREARMS to peaceful public meetings may end up shooting someone. After all, tea baggers, birthers, and deathers have all shown that they are clearly in full control of their faculties and are in no way mentally unstable.
It is perfectly true that adding a gun to a dispute involving violent criminals increases the likelihood that someone will be shot. But violent criminals are not like the rest of us. They have very poor impulse control, and, well, a demonstrated willingness to use violence. They also are not likely to apply for a permit before packing heat.
But people who bring LOADED FIREARMS to peaceful public meetings show fantastic impulse control and no possible tendency towards violence. Neither are they likely to be the type who get their weapons via loopholes like gun shows, as no documented militia supporter could possibly have a criminal record.
Murder is not something that usually just happens, even among family members. The people who do it are usually abnormal in some way, and it shows.
For example, they might bring LOADED FIREARMS to peaceful public meetings while spouting off about how Obama is a Muslim socialist from Kenya who intends to kill their grandmother.
For all the fears that allowing concealed carry would lead to murderous road rage and bar fights, these incidents have failed to materialize. I have managed to find one murder in Florida that was even arguably the result of having a gun available in a heated moment--the few others were either clearly premeditated, or involved a weapon other than a handgun. Given how small the number is, as far as I can determine, the good done by defensive uses of concealed weapons would virtually have to outweigh the harm, since several concealed carry holders have stopped violent crimes.
She read an NRA pamphlet, so there. But you'll have to take her word on it, admitting that's her source might make her argument seem less valid.
And if you think about it, you already know this. You have access to fatal weapons every day. How often, after a fight with someone, have you been seriously tempted to run them over with your car? Or grab a knife from the rack in the kitchen and brandish it at them? Put rat poison in their morning coffee? Or take an exacto blade to their throat while asleep? The men in the readership, at least, could be fairly confident of their ability to stab their spouse to death whenever she says something really awful. Yet none of you have done it. Virtually no one else has done it, either, except for people who were already clearly deeply troubled--either abusive, or mentally ill. That's why not a lot of hunters report getting into disputes with their friends or family that suddenly, unexpectedly, and tragically, turn violent.
Ohhhhhhhhhhh, the people bringing LOADED FIREARMS to peaceful public meetings were hunting deer. And again, there's no reason to doubt the mental health of these folk, so stop it.
(And yes, she compared a gun to a car. I did not make that up, you can click the link and verify it. We have cars, so we might as well have guns. Same difference.)
It would be a very good thing if we could take guns out of the hands of criminals. But they really don't seem to make ordinary people any more murderous.
Ummmm, if someone commits murder, they're a criminal. Non-criminals, by definition, don't commit murder. This, Megan, is called begging your terms.
There is more we could be doing to keep criminals from getting guns--unlike most second amendment supporters, I would support extending the requirement for background checks to private sales. And perhaps there should be a presumptive temporary revocation for those who have restraining orders out on them. But with 220 million people in this country and a very long border, no gun control scheme is going to make much difference in the availability of guns to people who really want to have them.
220 million? Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat? Wow, with a mistake like that how could anyone doubt any other factual claim she might make? And, of course, let's not forget that most of the guns in the US were smuggled across the border from Mexico and Canada and Bermuda. There's nothing we can do until the rest of the world stops flooding us with cheap handguns.
Can anyone tell me what it is she thinks she accomplished with this post?

Oh, she pleased her batshit insane commentariat, duh.


clever pseudonym said...

How can she get a statistic as easily obtainable as the population of the United States wrong? Even more, how in the hell did she sleep through the big fuss when it surpassed 300 million a few years back? Why do I bother to ask anymore? It would be more productive to bang my head on a desk. The headache wouldn't be nearly as bad.

brad said...

She says, in comments, that she meant 220 million guns.

clever pseudonym said...

Oh. So instead of being stupid, she was just being sloppy. That's our Megan.

Chad said...

The question, I think, is whether Megan was being deliberately dishonest here or if she really thinks a few random NRA talking points are sufficient for arguing this very specific position.

Ken Houghton said...

"But violent criminals are not like the rest of us. They have very poor impulse control..."

Unlike the rest of us, who are fat because we want to be.

Anonymous said...

Now Brad, let's not jump to conclusions. There's no reason to think that this dude is anything less than a concerned, conscientious citizen standing up for his second amendment rights in a responsible, non-threatening fashion...

To address Chad's question: the most charitable position that one could plausibly take on McMegan at this point is that, afflicted as she is with the characteristic dearth of empathy endemic to her narcissistic condition, she simply lacks the mental capacity to really come to grips with the twisted paranoid mindspace that these whackaloons occupy, and the real danger that they represent.

Anonymous said...

"First of all, as it shows in the articles I linked earlier, something like 90% of homicides are committed by people with criminal records"

I can't be bothered to do find the links Megan mentions, since I still think she's pulling numbers out of her ass. So, not doing any research myself, but:

Firstly, people with criminal records can't own guns? Really? Doesn't that depend on the crime? I would assume that white collar crime, DUI offenses, and a host of other crimes don't keep you from owning guns.

Secondly, I'm guessing she's being sloppy with the use of the term homicide. Homicide is not the same as murder. Involuntary manslaughter is homicide but not murder (and I'm guessing probably involves alcohol+cars way more often than guns so I'm not sure what my point is other than that Megan is sloppy)

Thirdly, I find it hard to believe that 90% of murders are committed by people with prior criminal records. Some murders will be committed by people with a history of criminal behavior, but no criminal records (they haven't gotten caught). There's also a hell of a lot of murders out there that involve family members, and I would guess in a large percentage of these cases, the perp doesn't have a criminal history.